Current Date: Sun, 08 Dec 2013 17:32:37 -0500
A Durham County judge resealed multiple documents in the Faith Hedgepeth homicide case Wednesday, furthering officials’ tight-lipped handling of information in the investigation.
The documents — including all search warrants, 911 calls and recordings related to the case — were resealed for 45 days by Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson during a meeting between Durham court officials and The Daily Tar Heel’s lawyers.
Hedgepeth, a UNC junior, was found dead in her Chapel Hill apartment in the early hours of Sept. 7.
The number and scope of documents related to the investigation have not been made available, prompting the DTH’s lawyers — Hugh Stevens and Mike Tadych — to meet with officials and detail the difficulties media organizations have faced in accessing documents in the case.
Court and police officials have hesitated to release what documents, warrants and recordings exist in the investigation and details surrounding their sealing.
One warrant, sealed by a 60-day order on Sept. 11, was resealed on Nov. 16 after the DTH unsuccessfully requested the document be released in court.
The DTH again asked for the warrant on Monday, after the second 45-day sealing order expired on Dec. 31.
The warrant was not released, as the Durham County District Attorney’s office had requested last week that this warrant and all other documents be resealed.
Stevens and Tadych also noted the low bar of proof judges have required to seal documents in the case.
They argued that the lack of details provided to the public has made it difficult for people to come forward with information about the case.
Stevens and Tadych provided court officials with information about a model local rule for sealing search warrants developed by Michael Crowell, a professor at the UNC School of Government.
Crowell’s rule — developed after questions about sealing search warrants arose during the murder investigations of Eve Carson and Cary resident Nancy Cooper — suggests placing a time limit on sealing orders and keeping a public log of sealed documents.
On Tuesday, the Chapel Hill Police Department broke its four-month silence on the investigation by releasing a profile of Hedgepeth’s possible killer.
The profile referenced male DNA found at the crime scene and said the suspect possibly knew Hedgepeth, made comments about her to associates, or acted strangely after her death.
People with information about Hedgepeth’s death are encouraged to call the Chapel Hill Police Department tip line at 919-614-6363 or Crime Stoppers at 919-942-7515.
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